How to engage your core with your spine in neutral alignment

Improve strength and flexibility

How to engage your core with your spine in neutral alignment

If you have been diagnosed with back pain you should consult with your doctor before commencing any exercise programme.

The new fitness buzzwords for this century are 'core', 'core strength' and 'core stability'. About 100 years ago Joseph Pilates referred to these as 'the powerhouse' so to Pilates people the core is nothing new. The engagement of the core muscles are crucial and fundamental to Pilates and these muscles are activated prior to and during exercising. The purpose of this particular post is to teach you how to engage the core muscles and how to simultaneously keep the pelvis and lumbar spine in a neutral position.

1) lie on your back on an exercise mat. You may need a small cushion under your head. Your knees should be bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat and hip width apart.

2) Place your thumbs together and rest them on your naval and now make a diamond shape by touching your finger tips together and then rest your finger tips on your pubic bone.

3) Imagine a wine glass filled to the brim that is resting with the base of the glass in the diamond.

4) Breathe in (BI) to prepare. As you breathe out (BO) flatten your waistband into the mat and curl your tailbone up as high as you can but keep your waistband on the mat. Now BI and send your naval to the ceiling as arch your back and your tailbone returns to the mat.

5) Continue with the same breathing pattern as you swing the pelvis on the end of the spine tipping the imaginary liquid in each direction. Repeat this swinging movement 3 times in each direction.

6) After the 3rd repetition go to the mid point so that your low back is neither flattened or arched. This position is termed in Pilates as neutral and you need to learn to maintain this position. Without moving your pelvis, slide the fingers of one hand into the small of your back to check the profile. You can do this at any time as a reference check.

7) With the heels of your hands resting on the front of your hip bones and your hands flat with the finger tips on your pubic bone you can now either cough or laugh to activate the muscles. The area within the diamond shape that domes out is the front of your core.

8) Now leaving your hands where they are, imagine that you are trying to fit into a pair of Jeans one size too small. Now BI to prepare, as you BO draw in the area within the diamond at about 30 percent effort. The movement is to scoop or hollow rather than grip or grab.

9) Now you need to learn to hold that 30 percent engagement while you continue to breathe in and out and without changing the profile in the small of your back. While your lower abdominals are engaged your back is protected.

10) With your pelvis in neutral and your core engaged you are now ready to begin your Pilates journey.

11) This neutral position of the pelvis should always be maintained during all non stretching exercises. For example when exercising whilst standing, sitting or kneeling etc.

Our future posts will teach Pilates exercises for beginners that are designed to improve strength and flexibility for all parts of the body.
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